Boro v Reading
@martin-bellamy - Does the team practice taking free kicks or corners? I haven't got the stats for Boro's goals scored directly from, or following closely on from corners, but I'd be surprised if the percentage is very high. Now, this is not to be taken as a complaint because, as will be clear from the post I made at 3.37pm, I'm delighted with the way things are going for the team at present. However, if we are trying to maximise the percentages, I'd have thought penalties PLUS free kicks and corners SHOULD be practiced. All those little gains add up...
Thanks Martin. If the coaching staff do not know who our No 1 penalty taker is then they should find out and install him pretty darn quick. And his No2 and 3 in case of injuries and substitutions.
We have a recent history of our penalties being taken by the guy who made sure he picked the ball up first and brushed everyone else aside. A player whose confidence in his own abilities was rarely matched by what he delivered on the pitch.
His name was Britt Assombalonga, and if his penalties are still etched on the memories of many of us it is not on account of their conspicuous success.
I really enjoyed the match and even a five hour journey home just felt like a minor inconvenience, The quick passing play all over the pitch was some of the best I have seen all season. Before the match it had occurred to me that it would be good if we hammered a team and the 5 - 0 result was a long way towards that. If MC had not made the substitutions (which were obviously justifiable) I think we would have scored at least two more goals. I was surprised Ramsey started in place of Forss but he played so well and both his goals were calmly placed around the Reading keeper, the first after a long run and the second from an instantly controlled Giles' pass. Giles assists were again vital. Akpom got through a lot of work in midfield again and he somehow gets into the right place to score from crosses which the defenders have been unable to block. Apart from Smith's tackle, which did look like it should have been a penalty to Reading, our defence didn't give anything away.
I didn't see anything in Reading's play to raise my hopes of them beating Sheffield United and we have what look like hard games to come including against Burnley, Norwich and Luton so I am still assuming we are trying to hold the advantage that 3rd place would give us in the playoffs. I hadn't expected Sheffield United to lose 3 out of their last 4 matches though.
Thoroughly enjoyed the result at the weekend although watching the highlights it did look like we got the rub of the green which is often the case for the better teams. Interestingly the only players in the Whoscored team of the week were Smith and Giles. In commentary of the highlights it was stated that Chuba's most goals in a season was 5 and on checking found before signing for us for 2.75 million he had only scored 3 goals in English football. He has played 67 times for the Boro and scored 26, 28 in 21 under MC, and 30 in 171 elsewhere.
@mw-in-darwin - Maybe I misunderstood the figures? "Played 67 times for the Boro and scored 26, 28 in 21 under MC and 30 in 167 elsewhere." Have you hit the wrong key somewhere there?
I'm looking forward to seeing the inevitable and overwhelmingly positive response tonight as Reading bounce back with a vengeance following Saturday's disappointment 😉
Wilder to join Watford as Bilic is sacked
Slaven Bilic has been sacked by Watford, with Chris Wilder agreeing to take over on a short-term deal for the remainder of the season.
The final details of the contract are being discussed and could be signed within the next 24 hours.
Bilic only took charge of 26 games at Vicarage Road after replacing Rob Edwards in September, but leaves having won just one of his last eight fixtures.
Wilder has been out of work since being sacked by Middlesbrough in October.
Come on BORO.
Wilder to join Watford as Bilic is sacked...
Well well well.
I might anticipate a new manager bounce for the next month or two. Then I wonder how long before things begin to turn ungodly in the vicarage
@powmillnaemore Have we ever seen Watford employing a manager for over six months? They have sacked a manager even after promotion to the EPL - before the Premier League season kicked off.
Wilder, who has agreed a contract until the end of the season, is Watford's ninth full-time manager since Javi Gracia's departure in September 2019.
A crazy club. I feel sorry for Wilder as we all know he is gone before the summer is over.
Up the Boro!
So everyone has now played 35 games in the Championship and Boro can see the task ahead. 6pts clear of 7th placed Millwall and 7pts behind Sheff Utd in 2nd.
A playoff spot looks most likely and I have to say I don’t fear any of the sides occupying those spots. The teams I’d most like to avoid are West Brom, Watford and probably Sunderland, currently in 9th, 10th & 11th respectively.
Still plenty of matches to go but we should be confident of reaching the playoffs at least.
It would be foolish to disagree that Boro finishing the season in a play off spot looks the most likely outcome today. However, the season isn't over until each team has played each other team home and away. The Blades have four or five very tricky fixtures to negotiate involving other teams in the promotion/playoff mix. So I also think it is very likely that Sheffield will drop drop at least 7 points before the end of the season. (Actually I am expecting them to drop more than 7 points, but lets see).
Who finishes second is not likely to be decided until May 8th, making for a very exciting run in for us all.
@powmillnaemore agreed. Last night's match changed nothing. Sheffield Utd did the bare minimum to remain favourites for second place. Drawing or losing against Reading would have been a disaster for them. They needed 8 wins from 12 to feel confident of second, now they need 7 from 11.
Now though they have two of their hardest games of the season to play. Four to 6 points from those games and they are within touching distance of the autos. 0-1 points and they may end the month in 3rd place.
We can but dream, but Boro too are likely to drop points as well. Finishing 3rd or 4th are of equal importance as the second leg would be at the Riverside with the added attraction of an extra 30 minutes at home if needed. Also away goals don’t count double in the playoffs.
We have only something to win during the next 11 matches. The pressure will always be on Sheffield United.
The spring will be busy for them, too. They played an "extra " match yesterday - compared to Boro who could train normally uner Carrick, Woody, Danks and Leadbitter this week.
They also have an FA Cup match against Blackburn to negotiate soon. So one extra week with 3 matches in 8 days.
One extra disadvantage they have over Boro, is that they were not able to buy any new players in January window. An embargo was placed on the Blades, preventing Paul Heckingbottom from bolstering his squad for the second half of the season.
I do not know them so well if they needed some new players or not, but think if Boro had not been able to buy Barlaser or loaning Ramsey or Archer in January!
But as Powmill-Naemore said: "Who finishes second is not likely to be decided until May 8th, making for a very exciting run in for us all."
Up the Boro!
@jarkko - I do not rule out the possibility of Boro getting the 2nd automatic promotion place this season. But for that to happen will require Boro to win the vast majority of the games to come, and for Sheffield United to come a cropper in several games (losing or drawing to drop points). To be fair, Sheffield United's results in the last few weeks have not been good and if their form, and Boro's form, continue in their recent trajectories, what was previously unthinkable could very easily become a reality. And if that situation plays out in the next few weeks it will be Sheffield United's players and supporters who will be under pressure, having previously been in a seemingly impregnable position. All is not always as it seems to be! However if Boro's excellent form does continue, it will probably still go "to the wire".
This season, or what it has left, will not be boring!
All is looking good for the club so far as concerns season ticket sales for 2023-24. I will renew in the next couple of weeks in order to remain an "Early Bird" and an ever present in the new stadium. I have had the same West Stand Upper seat for the last 28 years or so, and value the free drink Steve Gibson provides me with each game. But if we go up this season, it will be much more of a reward to Steve Gibson than to me or the players (with a very hefty nod in the direction of Michael Carrick). Fingers crossed...